Similar in many ways to dermatomyositis, Polymyositis is also a rare inflammatory disease where the body’s immune system attacks muscle tissues. It results in muscle weakness that tends to develop slowly over several weeks or months. Eventually, the condition may reach a point where it becomes difficult for those affected to successfully complete movements that involve added pressure on muscles such as walking up stairs or going from a sitting to a standing position.
Muscle weakness is the primary symptom of polymyositis. Weakness tends to be concentrated to areas around the trunk of the body, especially the thighs and hips; although muscle weakness can sometimes extend to the neck, shoulders, neck, and arms. There is no specific cause of polymyositis. It is similar to other autoimmune disorders in that the immune system attacks body tissues by mistake.
A positive diagnosis is often achieved with electrical tests on nerves and muscles, blood tests to look for elevated enzyme levels (experienced in half of all patients with polymyositis), and a muscle biopsy. Medications and physical therapy are the most common treatment options for managing polymyositis, a condition that’s managed, but not cured.
The goal with physical therapy is to strengthen core muscle groups to reduce the risk of injury. Prednisone is the drug that’s frequently prescribed to treat polymyositis. Some patients require additional treatment with immune-suppressants.
Polymyositis affects both sides of the body and can make it difficult to perform some daily tasks such as reaching and walking. An important part of managing the condition is ongoing patient education on what to expect, although most patients respond well to treatment. Patients are encouraged to remain active in physical therapy sessions and make an effort to retain muscle strength to help minimize symptoms.